Big Ten and ACC poised to dominate March Madness

Logue+graphic+by+James+Feng.

Logue graphic by James Feng.

Tyler Mitzner, Staff Writer

After a year of constantly changing number one teams and no clear favorite for the John R. Wooden Award, there’s an ambiguity around who the favorites are for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. However one thing is for sure – it’s shaping up to be another March Madness dominated by the Big Ten and ACC. Considering that three of the final four teams from last year belonged to these two conferences, this tournament could yield similar results.

With a combined ten of the top 25 teams belonging to these two conferences, four of which are in the top ten, they contain a significant amount of firepower.  Both the Big Ten and ACC have 14 teams, leading to a longer and more grueling conference season than the Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12, which prepares their players for the tournament setting better than other conferences. Additionally, after playing in some of the most historically difficult arenas for opposing teams, such as the Petersen Events Center for the University of Pittsburgh and Assembly Hall for Indiana University, neutral sites should be a much easier environment.

Although a case can be made for the Big 12, which has six teams in the top 25, including the current number one team Kansas, the conference lacks the depth to truly train its teams for the tournament. Playing more top tier opponents does prepare its teams for the higher level games found in the NCAA Tournament. However, the lack of depth in the Big 12 doesn’t teach them how to take every game, even the easy games against weaker opponents, as serious as a top ten showdown. On the contrary, the Big Ten has three unranked teams with 20 wins, and the ACC has two, thus proving their stronger middle ground. Furthermore, large upsets in these conferences, such as 15-16 NC State beating a 24-6 Miami or 8-22 Minnesota team beating a 24-7 Maryland, remind teams that anyone can win on any given day, an important lesson in the NCAA Tournament.

The Pac-12 has a similar problem as the Big 12, a lack of depth, however with even less top tier teams they are likely to perform poorly in the tournament. The SEC is probably the weakest of the power five conferences, containing only two top 25 teams. Although people claim that LSU has the best player in the NCAA in freshman forward Ben Simmons, if he is unable to keep his team in the top 25 in such a weak conference, then he may not be able to lead them far into the tournament.

Whether a team from one of the two top conferences wins it all or not, the Big Ten and the ACC will likely dominate the tournament. They will be well represented by their players, and seniors such as guard Denzel Valentine from Michigan State and forward Brice Johnson of North Carolina will look to make their last games memorable. Despite America’s love for underdog stories, the other conferences may not be strong enough to beat these favorites. The NCAA Tournament kicks off with the First Four March 15, and then the round of 64 begins  March 17.